"Christmas is a mess," declares Kurt Anderson, host of the always-stimulating WNYC-Public Radio International program Studio 360. It's "maybe the most important American brand," and that brand is sorely in need of a makeover. So Anderson asked Michael Bierut and his partners at the design agency Pentagram--creators of brand identities for Citibank, the New York Jets, United Airlines, and many other companies and products--to do just that. Anderson interviews Bierut about the project on this week's show (airing tomorrow evening on most stations, but you can take a listen here).
The designers identified three primary problems with Christmas as we know it:
- It's divisive: if you're not Christian, you're excluded; if you're a devout Christian, you're probably offended by the holiday's secularization.
- It's ugly: kitschy, tacky, and anachronistically Dickensian.
- It's commercial: enough said.
Everything about the brand got re-examined, from the name (deconstructed into "x.mas"--Bierut envisions creating a new Internet domain) to the color palette (shades of white that include "Kwanzaa Ivory," "Hanukkah Light," and "Dawkins Blank," in honor of noted scientist-atheist Richard Dawkins) to the icon (a versatile hand-drawn cone). There's even a new audio brand: the first five notes of "White Christmas."
Bonus for radio fans: the Studio 360 site includes Pentagram's downloadable wrapping-paper designs and a .mas card you can email to friends.
"Redesigning Christmas" is only partly a spoof. You can also view it, as I did, as a lesson in how good branding is done by some of the best professionals in the industry. In short: nothing is sacred (literally, in this case) and every detail matters (check out the slide show and note all the brand-icon extensions).
(.mas icons, above, created by Pentagram.)